Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday Afternoon Bird Photo

A sanderling and its reflection.

Morning Canticle

Canticle 18 A Song to the Lamb Revelation 4:11, 5:9-10, 13
Dignus es

Splendor and honor and kingly power *
are yours by right, O Lord our God,
For you created everything that is, *
and by your will they were created and have their being;
And yours by right, O Lamb that was slain, *
for with your blood you have redeemed for God,
From every family, language, people, and nation, *
a kingdom of priests to serve our God.
And so, to him who sits upon the throne, *
and to Christ the Lamb,
Be worship and praise, dominion and splendor, *
for ever and for ever more.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Some thoughts about Jeanne d'Arc

(This is a repost from 2012)

Today is the feast day of Jeanne d’Arc, also known as Joan of Arc, the patron saint of France and of soldiers.  Born to peasant parents in the village of Domremy, Joan began to hear the voices (and sometimes see some kind of vision) of Saints Michael, Catherine and Margaret when she was thirteen.  At first, they simply urged her to develop her piety but eventually began to direct her to become involved in the struggle to bring Charles, son of King Charles VI, to the contested French throne during the Hundred Years War.

Obediently, 17-year old Joan traveled to the French court, took on male attire, and persisted in making her way through layers of bureaucracy. She convinced Charles to allow her to command an army, which she led to a spectacular victory over the English at Orleans. Charles’ supporters were reinvigorated by the inspiration of this armored Maid of Orleans, and after a string of victories, Charles was crowned at the Cathedral in Rheims with Joan in attendance.

She laid down her arms on the altar of St Denis after being shot through the thigh with a crossbow but went back to the field one more time.  At Compagnie, Joan was trapped outside the castle, dragged from her horse, and promptly sold to the English with no intervention by Charles.  Held in a secular prison guarded by English soldiers, she continued to wear male clothing for protection.  The Inquisition was called in.

After nearly five months of testimony, beginning with charges of witchcraft and ending with a conviction of engaging in cross-dressing, Joan was condemned a heretic at nineteen, and she was burned at the stake on May 30, 1431.  A new trial by the Church in 1450 overturned her conviction and declared Joan to be a martyr.  She was declared a saint in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV, who called her a “most brilliant shining light” of God. 

Well.  What’s a peacenik like me doing fawning over a warrior saint?

I think it’s her fiercely compelling story, some of which we get to hear in her own voice, via the transcripts of her trial.

For instance, Joan was led by her voices to find a sword buried behind the altar in a church in Tours.  It had five crosses on it and was covered with easily removed rust.  “I loved that sword,” she testified, “because it was found in the church of St Catherine [of Fierbois], whom I loved.”  She only actually used the sword, however, to whack the backs of trollops while running them out of the army camps; during battles, it resided in one of its three special sheaths, while her hands were busy with her horse and her banner.  “I loved my banner forty times better than my sword. And when I went against the enemy, I carried my banner myself, lest I kill any.  I have never killed anyone,” she said.

Joan inspired hundreds of books, plays, musical compositions, movies, and all kinds of art.  Mark Twain, not normally known for his religious sentiments, declared that his biography of her was his best book and said: “Whatever thing men call great, look for it in Joan of Arc, and there you will find it.”  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle declared that “ to the Christ, the highest spiritual being of whom we have any exact record on this earth is the girl Jeanne.”   “She chose a path, and went down it like a thunderbolt,” said an admiring G.K. Chesterton.

Joan’s own voice comes through loud and clear in the trial transcript.  When asked by her inquisitor in what dialect her “voices” spoke to her, she replied, “In one better than yours.”  Do you believe in God? she was asked.  “Yes, better than you.”

But this is what I love best about Joan.  At her trial she said, “I am not afraid - I was born to do this.”

How many of us can say that?  How many of us can say that we did what we were born to do?  How many of us know what we were born to do?

 Most of us were not born to become heroes or the stuff of legends. 

And yet we all were born to be God’s hands and feet in this world.  We were all born to love our neighbor. We were all born to be who God made us to be, to follow our calling, even unto death.  We were born to be unafraid, because we know we belong to God.

And so I pray that like Joan, when I recognize what I believe God calls me to do or be, whatever it is, no matter how daunting it might seem, I will answer yes.

And not just that I will say yes.  I pray that I will go down that path like a thunderbolt!

Morning Canticle

Canticle 19 The Song of the Redeemed Revelation 15:3-4
Magna et mirabilia
O ruler of the universe, Lord God,
great deeds are they that you have done, *
surpassing human understanding.
Your ways are ways of righteousness and truth, *
O King of all the ages
Who can fail to do you homage, Lord
and sing the praises of your Name
for you only are the Holy One.
All nations will draw near and fall down before you
because your just and holy works have been revealed.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wednesday Afternoon Flower Photo

This is the lovely Souvenir de St Anne, a Bourbon rose. All of my roses are my favorite and this one is, too. It is fragrant, beautiful, self-cleaning (i.e., the spent blossoms fall off), and reliably repeats blooms throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Plus, I like how the shy little half petals curl over the stamens.

Morning Canticle

Canticle 11 The Third Song of Isaiah Isaiah 60:1-3, 11a, 14c, 18-19
Surge, illuminare

Arise, shine, for your light has come, *
and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.
For behold, darkness covers the land; *
deep gloom enshrouds the peoples.
But over you the Lord will rise, *
and his glory will appear upon you.
Nations will stream to your light, *
and kings to the brightness of your dawning.
Your gates will always be open; *
by day or night they will never be shut.
They will call you, The City of the Lord, *
The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
Violence will no more be heard in your land, *
ruin or destruction within your borders.
You will call your walls, Salvation, *
and all your portals, Praise.
The sun will no more be your light by day; *
by night you will not need the brightness of the moon.
The Lord will be your everlasting light, *
and your God will be your glory.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Graduation #2 Complete!

Here we all are - Mom, Dad, and Jeffrey at Jeff's high school graduation. 
Photo shamelessly nicked from our friend Loren Williams' photos.

You won't be surprised to learn that Jeffrey won the Grady Music Cup, a band scholarship, 
and a chorus scholarship, in addition the the Coca-Cola Fine Arts award. 
A fine arts prizes sweep! 
Needless to say, we are very proud of this guy.

Now to enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Graduation # 1 Complete!

Seventeen hundred miles and several days later, here's the happy college grad! We are all so proud of him.

Now for a few days of work in Virginia before embarking on trip number two for the high school graduation!

I've had some wonderful family time this last week. I expect to have more wonderful family time next week.

But in the meantime, I'm kind of exhausted.

So, back to being in "gone fishing" mode for a while longer.

Also, I've had to put some restrictions on commenting on this blog for a while. I've been overwhelmed with spam lately. I am sorry to have to do it and I hope that we'll all be back in social interaction mode soon!


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Gone Fishing

I'm going on a road trip starting today, with the ultimate goal of attending my son's college graduation. I wrote about his heading out to this college, after some real bumps in the road at other colleges, here.

I'm happy to say that he is graduating something like second in his class and has been awarded the Winston and Margaret Ehrmann Senior Award for Excellence in Sociology.  He has been admitted to Columbia University in New York's master of sociology program for next year.  He's gotten his groove back.

Along the way, I'm celebrating my birthday and Mothers' Day and cleaning out my Atlanta yard's ornamental pond and replacing the pump, playing with Miss Kitty, and visiting my own mother. I also hope some of my roses are still blooming.  AND, we'll be driving 1700+ miles.

So, I'm taking a break from blogging for a bit! See you on the flip side!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Meadow

This area is a great place to live in the spring if one's favorite color is yellow. Many types of yellow wildflowers are blooming en masse along the roadside, in fields, in the medians in parking lots, etc.

Morning Psalm

Hear my teaching, O my people;*
incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

I will open my mouth in a parable;*
I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.

That which we have heard and known,
and what our forefathers have told us,*
we will not hide from their children.

We will recount to generations to come
the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the LORD,*
and the wonderful works he has done.

He gave his decrees to Jacob
and established a law for Israel,*
which he commanded them to teach their children;

That the generations to come might know,
and the children yet unborn;*
that they in turn might tell it to their children:

So that they might put their trust in God*
and not forget the deeds of God,
but keep his commandments;

And not be like their forefathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,*
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
and whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Psalm 78:1-8

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Tending the Soul

Here we are on the 6th of the 7 Sundays in Eastertide. Thursday is Ascension Day. Soon comes Pentecost.

In the Gospel today, Jesus is preparing his disciples for his departure. We are looking back to the time after the Last Supper and before the arrest in the Garden. Jesus is saying goodbye.

And he says it this way: Soon I am going, but don’t be afraid. You won’t be alone. I’m sending someone to be with you, to be your companion when I am gone, to help you remember the things I taught you. 

That companion is the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Comforter, who will walk with the disciples when Jesus walks with them no longer, to bind them together in community, and give them the power to continue Jesus’ work in the world.

That’s where we are in the story of Jesus and that’s where we are in the story of the church year. And this is our story, too. We too are preparing to receive again at Pentecost the Holy Spirit, who will walk with us and bind us together and empower us to do God’s work in the world.

So, what are we doing to prepare for the Spirit to be our companion going forward?

Most of us have busy lives. We have lists of things to do. We have family to raise or elders to look after. We have our work. We need to shop and cook and exercise. We have instruments to practice and books to read and photographs to take and games to play. We have places to go and chores to do. 

And that’s just my own partial list. Like many of us, I sometimes get so caught up in “busy” that I relegate my spiritual development to something I might get around to after I’ve done all the other things. How about you? Oh, we love God and we want to be good, but since God is infinite, maybe tending to our spiritual lives doesn’t have to be on the front burner right now.... 

And yet. What could be more important than tending to our spiritual lives? Our spiritual selves aren’t an add-on to our regular selves. Our spiritual self is the very core of our whole self as a beloved child of God.

Our Bible begins in Genesis with a couple living in a beautiful garden, and it ends with this image in Revelation: a heavenly city come to earth as a community in a garden, gathered around God, from whom flows life-giving water, featuring a tree of life whose leaves are God’s medicine for healing. We are invited to live in this garden and be healed and reconciled. That is God’s beautiful vision for us. We are nourished by this living water and this healing tree of life. This is who we are created to be, citizens of this garden. This is the home of our spiritual self.

Tending to the spiritual self means partaking of that living water and allowing God’s medicine to heal our wounds and fractures as we go about our daily business.

These last days, we’ve been holding discernment meetings where many of us have come together to talk about hopes and desires for the future of Bruton Parish. Some women of the parish gathered last weekend to talk about women’s ministries here as well.  

And all through these discussions, I’ve been hearing a longing for connection. Connection with God and connection with others. For some it’s connection with one another here - women connecting to women, parents to other parents, younger folks to older folks. For others, the longing is for connection with the community around us - people in the parish connecting with people in the community who need companionship and help and healing.

Some have voiced a desire for deeper connection with God through worship, through new engagement with the Scriptures, through exploring spiritual themes in literature.

St Augustine described the work of the Spirit as connecting.  He described the Spirit as the love that moves between Father and Son, between God and us, connecting us to God and to one another.  Connecting us to our story as the people of God. Connecting us to our true selves.

There’s an intentionality to spiritual development, and that intentionality is often a casualty of our busy lives. We think we will get around to it. But that’s not tending to it.

If we tend to it, the Spirit nourishes us with living water from God’s own heart, and gives us the strength, and fosters the love needed, to connect with one another and to connect with the community so that we are in fact able to continue God’s work in the world as Jesus has asked us to do. 

Jesus is reminding us today of our need to intentionally prepare for the Spirit to be among us, to strengthen us, to work through us to connect us to God and to one another and to our true selves. This isn’t ‘when I get around to it’ work but something our very souls and the soul of this community depends upon.

So come, Holy Spirit, come!

Collect for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Saturday Morning Jazz

The Jeffrey Cox Quintet plays Herbie Hancock's Watermelon Man (the 2nd version) live at The Velvet Note jazz club in Alpharetta, Georgia on April 28, 2013.

Thanks to Mike Holiman for the YouTube video.

Musicians:  Jeffrey Cox, trumpet and band leader; Jordan Holiman, drums; Morgan Guerin, saxophone; Andrew Sommer, bass; Andres Rovira, piano.

Jeffrey is headed to the New England Conservatory next  year; Jordan will study in the jazz program at North Texas; Andrew is going to Juilliard. Andres has another year of high school and Morgan has three more years of high school.

At church, I tell people that our children are not the future of the church - they are the church now. Similarly, these guys are jazz now.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Night Prayer

O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we live
in and the life we live: Watch over those, both night and day, 
who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never
forget that our common life depends upon each other's toil;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Visual Morning Prayer

A flying sanderling on a sunny day. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

That Time I was Philip

Some years ago, before I went to seminary, a group of us in Atlanta went to see the one-man performance of The Gospel of John by the actor Brad Sherrill.

Sherrill employed a number of interesting techniques in his performance. For instance, he chose a particular seat in the audience that would represent each character who appears in the Gospel. Then as he was speaking the part, he would go to that spot and talk to the occupant of the seat. It was very effective.

As it turns out, I was sitting in the seat that was designated for Philip. OMG, I thought, I'm in the show! This is exciting. I sat up straight and tall in my Philip Seat as soon as I realized, early in the performance, when Jesus was collecting his disciples, that I was going to be Philip.

First, Philip was called by Jesus. (Yay!) And then Philip brought Nathaniel to Jesus. (OK, looking good!) And then Jesus asked Philip where all the people (the 5,000) were going to get bread in the wilderness. (Um, a little more uncomfortable, because Jesus already knew the answer, but still, Jesus is talking TO ME!)  Then, Philip brings the Greeks who want to see Jesus to Andrew. (This seems pretty good, to be so close to the action when the Gentiles become part of the story of salvation.)

And then the kicker.  From John 14:8-10 (which is part of the Gospel reading for today's feast of Philip and James):

Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, `Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? 

Do you still not know me, after all this time, Philip? How can you say "show us the Father? Do you not believe?"

I slunk down in my chair. Yes, Jesus was speaking to me in front of God and everybody. O.M.G.

Truthfully, we know very little about these disciples/apostles, Philip and James. In fact, there are so many Jameses that I'm not even going there about who we are talking about on this feast day. What we do know comes from the writers of the Gospels who wanted to portray first of all the business of the person Jesus and second the interactions he had with those around him. Philip (and James) were among those around him. They may have been playing "bit parts" in the stories. We really do not know who they were.

But that conversation between Philip and Jesus has never left me. Do you really not know me, after all this time? Do you still not believe, after all that you have seen?

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. The story of God made man is so incredible, how can we believe it? We are mere mortals who hope for salvation and yet may well not be able to see that salvation when it stands before us. We want to believe and then we find so many excuses not to believe, not to accept that God's ways are not our ways and so salvation is given freely to all who want it when we would prefer there be a more selective process. We find it so hard to believe that God's abundance overflows at every turn and meanwhile we spend our energy fighting each other over mere crumbs, missing the manna from heaven.

Where should the people go for bread? Jesus asks Philip. But Jesus knew that he himself would provide the bread, and the truth, and the life, and the way. I do not always know Jesus, even after all this time. The new things that God does in the world take me by surprise sometimes and I have to "recalculate" as my GPS says when I take a new route.

I am just grateful to be a companion, even if I am often an uncomprehending companion. And I believe that Philip was grateful, too.

Collect for St Philip and St James

Hummingbird Vine

Almighty God, who gave to your apostles Philip and James grace and strength to bear witness to the truth: Grant that we, being mindful of their victory of faith, may glorify in life and death the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


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